Adaptive Learning Environments 1 -  UPDATED 11th JANUARY 2017

This web page will refer to the 2016-2017 version of the course which will run from January to April 2017.  Click here to see the old (2011/12) course pages.The course catalogue entry is INFR11069.

Lecturer: Helen Pain
Informatics Forum 4.17
Contact e-mail: helen (at) inf (dot) ed (dot) ac (dot) uk

Class dates and times

Tuesdays and Fridays from 12:10-13:00, beginning on Tuesday January 17th, 2015. There is no teaching 20th - 24th February during Flexible Learning Week. Teaching ends on Friday 7th April.
The class meets in G.16, MEDS, this is in room G.16 Seminar Room (Doorway 4), the Old Medical School, Teviot Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9AG


Course support and e-mail policy
Course schedule, including information on deadlines and links to class materials
Big questions and high-level themes for the course
Reading list (divided by lectures) indicating REQUIRED and SUGGESTED materials
Unit 1: Information and materials for Student seminar series 1 (SSS1) and Assignment 1, including SSS1 papers
Unit 2:  Information and materials for  Assignment 2,  (there will be no SSS2)
Feedback and marking information, including marking guides (rubrics) for the assignments
Exam information and past papers
General resources

New links--Try some ALEs!

Cognitive Tutor 90-day trial available free from Carnegie Learning. Click on "Try a demo now" (left side).
Try Betty's Brain for free. Register at Vanderbilt Teachable Agents website under Try Betty's Brain. NB: Need internet access continuously while using.
Try ANDES physics tutor free from the ANDES project website. Remember that this is supposed to be homework help for a more traditional course, and probably cannot teach you physics all by itself.

Course overview: How is ALE organised?

This course consists of a mixture of lectures, small-group class activities, student-led seminars, independent readings, and full-class discussions.

Core Systems:
The course begins by presenting introductory lectures and readings about several core systems (i.e. existent adaptive learning environments) that will be referenced throughout the semester as examples for more specific topic units, including but not limited to user modelling, metacognition, feedback, and system evaluation. Topic units will be supported by additional reading and class activities. There may also be a small number of scheduled guest lectures (to be confirmed).

Big Questions:
The course also explicitly asks four "big questions" about what adaptive learning environments ARE, and what they have tried to accomplish (and how/why). Throughout the course, the class will collaborate to gather evidence related to these questions from the various systems, topics, and papers discussed, and will try to collectively generate some answers. Time permitting, the course will culminate with a class debate about whether or not we believe that ALE/ITS research has (so far) succeeded in accomplishing what we have identified as its main goals.

Student Seminar Series (SSS)
The student seminar series (SSS) combine out-of-class preparation with a student-led presentation to the rest of the class. The seminar tasks are designed to add more in-depth information to the introductory lectures, and allow students to practice key skills for the assignments in a context where their classmates can help them, and where they can get formative feedback (see below). There will be only one seminar series this year, due to time constraints and student numbers, with all students participating in each series as a part of a small group (about 4 students).

Each seminar series is linked to a written assignment. This assignment will build directly on the task that students have accomplished in their seminar, and the seminar readings. Thus, the seminar instructions and the assignment are introduced at the same time, so that students have a chance to choose the combined seminar/assignment topic that interests them most.

Feedback and marking:
For each student seminar series (SSS), each of the groups will receive formative feedback on how well they have accomplished their task, with specific comments for improvement before they submit the assignment. Each student's essay assignments will receive summative feedback in the form of a completed marking guide (i.e. rubric) assessing the work on various categories/subtasks. Blank marking guides (rubrics) will be made available to students ahead of time so that they can check their own work against the criteria. Each student will also receive feedback on points where s/he is already doing well, and priorities for improving on the next assignment (or for the exam, in the case of assignment 2).

The Exam - see exam notes
The exam will comprise 3 questions, to be completed in 2 hours. In all questions, credit will be given for detail; for reference to relevant literature and research; for reference to systems; for use of examples; for discussion of strengths and limitations of approaches considered; and for justification of conclusions.
    Question 1 is compulsory and will consist of a number of short-answer questions or parts. The short answer questions may ask about specific concepts or systems or methods, in relation to the lecture materials and the core systems and may also have design aspects (or systems or studies).
    There will then be a choice of two longer questions: either Question 2 or Question 3. These longer questions can be essay questions or design questions, or a combination. They may similar to material in the two assignments.
    The essay questions will be similar to the assignments in that they ask you to give explanations, or suggest solutions to problems, or discuss or critically evaluate issues, based on evidence from the field--  you can draw on ANY evidence from any system(s), papers, and studies, as long as this evidence is relevant, detailed, and accurate. Simply memorising isolated facts about systems will not be a very good strategy for essays, as you will see if you look at previous years' exams. Thinking in terms of argumentation, evidence, and the course's "big questions" is likely to be a much better strategy (and also a far more interesting one).
    The design questions will draw on design of all or part of system, or on studies to inform the design or evaluation of a system, and will may require knowledge of existing systems to base the design on, or to compare. It may involve specification of task requirements, learner group, example interactions, and methods for design and evaluation (formative and summative).
    The format of questions 2 and 3 will be similar to those in past  Advanced Interactive Learning Environments (AILE) and Adaptive Learning Environments (MSc/UG4) exam papers. 

FAQ 1: How much programming is in this course?
There is ZERO programming in this course. We will be talking about existing adaptive learning environments and about new designs at a fairly high level, not at a detailed implementation level. That said, knowledge of programming will certainly add to your understanding of the course materials.

FAQ 2: Is this course suitable for visiting students? Yes. Visiting students are very welcome. Anyone with some general background in any of the following subjects should be fine to take this course: cognitive science, education, psychology, human-computer interaction, dialogue systems, AI. Unlike some other courses in Informatics, ALE-1 does not build directly on very specific content from earlier courses.

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